Monday, October 14, 2013

Let's Blame the Previous English and Language Teachers! (Blog 8)

I do not even remember any crazy grammar rules I was taught except being able to use any antecedent for any pronoun. For example, I could write “A tutee should edit their paper before coming into the Writing Center to avoid wasting my time,” and I would think it was correct because that is what I was taught. I was never marked down for incorrect pronoun-antecedent agreement until my internship as a writing tutor here. When Claire first showed me what I was doing wrong, I was in extreme disequilibrium about why it was wrong and how to not do it anymore. Hell, I did not even know what an antecedent was.
It took me awhile to learn how to address this error in my own paper and even longer when taking grammar quizzes online for practice. I am normally a perfectionist, so I got frustrated with myself because I did not pick up on the concept quickly. Also, with my mother being an editor, I would like to think I inherited her perfect grammar usage, not just her style. C’est la vie, I guess.
 After about a week or so of taking the online quizzes, reading the grammar book Claire let me borrow, and continuously revising my papers, I finally grasped how to properly do pronoun-antecedent agreement. I also could talk tutees through how to do it in their own papers, so I was elated. Now, I know it is “A tutee should edit his or her paper before coming into the Writing Center to avoid wasting my time” or “Tutees should edit their papers before coming into the Writing Center to avoid wasting my time.”
It is really amazing to me how many times I see others, especially the developing writing, make the same grammatical mistakes I made. I am almost certain that many of the grammatical mistakes writers make are due to the way they speak. I know that this is due to my culture. As a Washington, D.C. urbanite, I speak in slang ninety percent of the time when I am with my friends and about sixty percent when I am around my family. This used to be problematic for me because I wrote how I talked and thought in my mind. This is definitely the case with pronouns and their antecedents. So, when I have seen these types of mistakes in tutees’ writing, I let them know that they are not stupid but human. Also, the only way to get good at a concept is to practice it for the most part. Tutees seem to be grateful to know this and be given tools, such as online grammar quizzes for practice, so they can become better writers and be able to sharpen their skills.

Now that I think about it, school boards should make English and Language teachers, especially Advanced Placement instructors, take writing courses. Not only will it increase their own knowledge, but they can pass it on to those they teach, so years down the road, their students will not look like they have never had any type of correct grammar exposure.


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